BJJ Belts

BJJ Belts:

I have worn almost all of the BJJ Adult Belts and none of the kid’s belts. It will take another 30 years of consistent training to see another belt color, so that will be what, 76 years old? After about the blue belt, in BJJ, I really STOPPED wanting new belts.

BJJ Training Journal:

Doug Franklin BJJ Black Belt
Doug Franklin BJJ Black Belt

I am writing this because I got back onto my Training Journal about three weeks ago knowing that we had a big seminar coming up at my school with Romelo Barral. Since using my old journal I found some irritating formatting issues that I wanted to fix. I have just finished republishing my Training Journal and think that it is vastly improved over the version 1.0 I’ve been carrying to practice lately.

Since I finished, this has been rumbling around in my head, and I need to get it out. I have wanted to write this for a long time. And now with the republication finished, this is my reward. The Training Journal is done and I’m getting some stuff out of my head.

So bonus, two things checked off my to-do list!

BJJ Tournaments:

A long time ago, about nine years now, I signed up for a tournament as a white belt. The conclusion was pretty much that I do not enjoy BJJ tournaments.

The Silver just did not fire me up for another attempt. I was NOT the cameraman for obvious reasons 😛

Here is me about nine years ago getting scuffed up at my first-ever tournament:

First Match:

Second Match For Silver:

Thoughts on Tournaments:

I have worked at several tournaments, and that was interesting. Working at the tournaments taught me a lot about the rules and what well-run versus poorly run tournaments looked like.

I have watched tournaments. But that is a special kind of torture because all I want to do is go out on the mats and play too.

I have participated in tournaments and gotten my ass beat. They never got into my blood. For some people the rush of competition is addictive. As someone who spent a year kicking in doors, smashing stuff in tanks, and dropping mortar rounds, my frame of reference for that kind of rush is a LOT different.

BJJ Fun:

The fun is the time on the mats, not the time between belts. So jokes about ‘next belts aside’, realistically, I have almost zero interest in chasing another belt color.

I am just having fun training six to ten hours a week on the mats and feeling much better now that I’m back into weights too.

BJJ Benefits:

The Benefits of BJJ for me are mostly mental and social. I have anxiety & hypervigilance issues from combat time in the Army. Training helps me mitigate both massively.

The social benefits of working with a bunch of great people who have common fitness and constructive hobby goals elevate every aspect of my life. My diet is better because of BJJ. I do not drink six nights a week, and sparingly on Saturday, because you have rarely wished for different life choices as you will when trying to train Saturday morning while hung over from Friday night.

BJJ Belts In Order:

I was brought up in a traditionalist school with strict adherence to IBJJF belt orders and time protocols. Professor Dracolino ruthlessly adheres to belt standards and then makes character & commitment judgments before passing anyone to the next level. That meticulous adherence to promotion standards only becomes more strict the higher you go.

IBJJF Graduation Poster
IBJJF Graduation Poster

Kids BJJ Belts:

The IBJJF Kids Graduation system has belts and then three sets of stripes within the system to consistently provide positive incentives to children.

The closest that I have come to the kid’s graduation system is standing on the side of the mat and applauding for the little heroes getting their stripes and belts. I have never received a kid’s belt.

Kids Belts: Gray / Yellow / Orange / Green:

The kid’s belts are Gray, Yellow, Orange, and Green. Then each belt has three sub-belts, a white stripe, a monochromatic, and then a black stripe as the final step.

Each belt has a monthly time minimum. And then there are class requirements in between, so you need to show up and participate in classes, not just mark time and expect.

BJJ Kids Belts As An Outsider:

I do know that some of the most amazing competitors and athletes I have ever seen have soldiered through multiple kid’s belts. These little warriors are dumped into the adult class at 16, and a lot of them go on to dismantle old men like me as they turn into young adults, adding height and weight to match their amazing flexibility and strength, to all those years of training.

Be extremely wary of the ‘Green Belt’ turned into a Blue Belt! Especially, watch out for them when they have added a few stripes onto that Blue Belt and are over the shocking transition from kid’s class to adult classes. They will probably kick your butt, and smile while spinning under you, taking your back and choking you out!

These kids are where your Adult World Champions come from.

The Best BJJ Belts:

For me, the best BJJ Belts were DEFINITELY the blue and purple belts.

That was both before I realized how little I knew about the game, and before everyone who passed onto the mats targeted me for destruction and dismemberment. Ignorance was bliss! But now it is gone, and I’m too damn stubborn to let them roll me.

White Belt:

White Belt was my second-least favorite belt.

At White Belt, I was so ignorant of the simple things like where to put my body that I was constantly hurting myself. I was also terrified that I would hurt my classmates and that anxiety took away chunks of the fun.

Literally, I did not know what I did not know. I had to make it all the way to the Purple Belt before I realized that all I should have been focusing on was (body) position, control & balance, and not chasing the next shiny object.

To make up for my ignorance, as soon as I hit my third stripe, I doubled down on my classes, and went to as many classes as I could every day! That amounted to usually between ten and fourteen hours of training per week.

I was so stupid I literally did not know how bad I was! When I was keeping my head it took me almost eighteen months before I felt vaguely competent.

I literally asked a question a day, every day, and still felt like a dummy because there was still so much to ask. I asked so many dumb questions, so frequently, that the Professor limited me to one question answered per day.

Blue Belt:

The Blue Belt saw the assignment of one guard, one sweep, one pass, one submission, and one takedown. Because I am a dumb ass and needed things simplified for me that assignment lasted for two and a half years of Blue Belt and into my first several months of Purple Belt.

I got really good at those aspects of my game and have forced others to adjust and learn to counter what I prefer. I began to realize where I needed to put my body and how to maintain control of my opponent both from top and guard.

In all other things, I was pretty much too ignorant to realize what I was doing wrong. So ignorance still being bliss, I got to have fun and then try to figure out the puzzle of ‘how did Doug get tapped today’ on my way home.

Purple Belt:

I LOVED being a Purple Belt!

I had fun!

Most days I was good enough that I was not constantly demolished. I was not quite into the dangerous ground of leg and foot locks that I have (HAD!) avoided for all those years leading up to and through Purple Belt. During training, I realized where I needed to put my body. I could see attacks coming in, even from higher-level opponents I was recognizing what they were throwing at me.

During Purple Belt, I was dealing with some back and shoulder issues and eeking through things at work. While I wanted to try tournaments again I never committed to them and the opportunity passed. My focus was elsewhere, on my business at the time, and I was having fun on the mats, so those decisions were right for the time.

Brown Belt:

I HATED being a Brown Belt! I disliked being a Brown Belt even more than being a White Belt!

Doug Franklin BJJ Brown Belt
Doug Franklin BJJ Brown Belt

For at least the first twelve months I did not feel ready to even step onto the mats! For the first TWELVE month being a brown belt, I felt like a complete imposter!

I got my ass beat every day. New and terrifying submissions kept getting thrown at me. As soon as I would recognize one, someone would do some kind of spinning diving summersault thing, latch onto my leg or foot, and yank! With my messed up ankles and knees, I got gun-shy and extremely cautious. People I have known for seven years were popping out of nowhere with these freaky toe-grab ankle locks and knee bars, sending my blood pressure spiking through my ears.

It was so stressful for those first twelve months, worrying about my legs, that as soon as people slipped and rolled under me and even tickled my feet for those attacks I would bail out, tap, and lose the training. I constantly felt like a fraud, a disappointment, and a waste of training space for my competent training partners.

In the final six months, I began actively attacking back into those leg and foot locks. I fought like hell in every single match. Unfortunately, I could feel the difference in my performance between belts. I always moved faster and harder with peers and near peers than I did with White and Blue belts. Because training with the lower ranks I was watching out for the weird stuff that lower belts do that kick people in the head, knock us back into other training pairs, and things like that.

In my last six months as a Brown Belt, I started to pay much better attention to what was going on around me and taking ownership of what was happening on the mats around me.

Black Belt:

The Black Belt has been a mixed bag so far.

The Black Belt Imposter Phase:

At this point, I have carried the Black Belt for about three-quarters of a year. I still feel like an imposter and fraud most days. But no matter how badly I think I trained, no matter how many times I missed what I was working on, people still come to me after practice and ask me questions about how to do things.

I almost always feel myself blink twice and ask myself in my head, ‘Why the fuck are you asking me’?

And then, I remember, ‘Oh yeah. That’s why. That whole black belt thing…’

My Black Belt Training Goals:

The training goals are no longer White-Belt-Doug ‘needz ta trainz hardz – derp’. My training goals are now more ‘The last seminar covered spider guard which is similar to what I’m already doing. Now how can I incorporate that into my transition game to get better at guard retention’.

I now know that I am going to get smashed, passed, dumped, submitted, tossed, humiliated, and swept when I am trying new things. Knowing that is going to happen especially frequently when I am reasoning through techniques helps a little. Because that is part of the learning process. I now consistently put myself into shitty positions because I know that I need to figure out how to recover and get out of them.

The Black Belt Future:

So, what is in the future?

crazy eight ball reply hazy try again later

Maybe not that bad!

I will not quit. That is for sure. Training is in my blood and soul at this point.

Since I have gotten back into journaling my training progress I have reestablished my direction. Setting goals has re-focused my mind on what I intend to learn, so little setbacks and bumps have not bothered me as much as usual in the last three weeks.

Writing things down in my Training Journal is helping keep classes in order in my head. I seem to be retaining things better and I am not getting myself frustrated with distractions like failing on a practice bout when I know I am working on something specific that I just don’t have down to a solid level of competence yet.

We’ll keep working on things.

Red Belt:

Red Belt? Who knows what lay beyond the immense interstellar void of the Black Belt? I say it is a myth, and I’m going to stick with that story for the next twenty-five-plus years! 😉

Keep Training:

Training, regardless of belt level, finds its way into your blood.

The complicated neurochemical explanations abound, and you can find them from much wiser and more schooled people than me.  They will talk about dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and all the other good chemicals.

The bottom line is that training for me has drastically improved my mental health.  Stress levels are way down.  Confidence is way up.  Fitness, flexibility, and endurance have all vastly improved since I started training.  Plus the mental exercise of using writing to focus my mind and add another tactile memory stimulus has worked wonders for me.

By the rules, you have only twenty seconds to tie your belt in competition.  I put together a quick helper on how to quickly and securely tie your belt.  Please check it out here!

If you would like to give the writing part a try, here is the Training Journal I made and am using.  Please grab one for yourself, try it out, and let me know what you think here on my contacts. 🙂

Happy training!



Doug Franklin has trained BJJ for more than nine years and has attained the rank of Black Belt

Doug F

Dad. Little green Army guy. Over-thinker. All I want out of life is an honest week's pay for an honest day's work!

Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: